15th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL 2022
The Last Page
Section: In Someone Else’s Shoes
The Last Page documents the final days of a bookseller Polan Shobo, specialising in antiquarian books in the Tokyo suburbs. Kyosuke Ishida, the owner, decided to close down his shop after 35 years due to the recession brought on by the pandemic. In the week before the closing day, the shop saw an unexpected surge in visitors.
Hey Kota, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Thank you for inviting me! The last two years have indeed been very strange. I tried to be as creative as I could, busying myself with several filming projects. I found it the best way to escape from the growing frustration under the pandemic.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
Absolutely. The Last Page is a documentary about the closure of an antiquarian bookshop in Tokyo in February 2021, a year into the pandemic. COVID-19 was a critical factor of the closure. I wanted to capture the last days of the bookshop: the owner’s routines about to be discontinued or the look of the bookshop at different times of the day. I tried to frame the bookshop owner facing the decision that he had made and could not take it back. I also wanted to record what happened to one retail shop in a small community of the metropolis. I hope the film could present an epitome of the current situation and its convincing critique.
What does it mean to be screening The Last Page at the 15th BFI Future Film Festival?
It’s a huge honour to have a chance to screen my film at BFI Southbank. Last year, I was overjoyed to show another film, Marginal: Short Version, entirely shot on Zoom, on BFI Player at BFI Future Film Festival 2021. I feel thrilled and privileged to be back at the festival, this time with the in-venue screening at NFT1, one of my beloved cinemas in the UK.
Just before the pandemic, in 2019, I attended the 13th BFI Future Film Festival in person and was greatly impressed with the quality of the selected films. For me, showing my film on the BFI’s screen was a dream come true! Although I won’t be able to attend the events in person, I hope you will enjoy my documentary on the big screen of BFI Southbank or on BFI Player.
The Last Page is going to be in the In Someone Else’s Shoes Section of the festival. Are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
I’m nervous, indeed! At the same time, I wonder if the film can resonate with the people outside Japan. Over here, systematic problems related to compensation have been causing societal tension under the pandemic. Hardest-hit small businesses are struggling, and the local shops you love are disappearing. I’m curious about the UK audiences’ response to the film.
Can you tell me a little bit about how The Last Page came about, what was the inspiration behind your film?
I’ve known the bookshop, Polan Shobo, since I was little. My parents used to buy me books there.
In January 2021, I was preparing for a narrative film set partly in Polan Shobo when I learnt the shop was closing in a month. I got an immediate inspiration I asked Mr Ishida, the shop owner if I could record the last days of the shop and make a documentary film. The filming started soon after I got his approval.
"You must be aware of the impact of you and your camera. It’s almost impossible for the subject to behave without minding the camera."
When working on a short film like this how close were you able to keep to your script once you started shooting, did you allow yourself much flexibility?
This is my first attempt to film a documentary featuring a particular person. I didn’t prepare a script or anything in advance. I didn’t want to create a story before shooting the film. I just started shooting and tried to let myself go with the flow. Because the time was limited before the closure, I filmed as much footage as possible.
For me, the editing process of The Last Page felt like the writing process of a narrative film. You spend long hours contemplating how to organize a story out of long and fragmentary footage. I kept questioning myself how to create a narrative that would enable audiences to understand what they see clearly and deeply.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing The Last Page to life?
Filming under the pandemic was a big challenge. Due to the restrictions that my university, like many other universities in Japan, imposed on students’ extra-curricular activities, I couldn’t work with my regular collaborators, who were also students. During the filming, I was doing this and that like a one-man-band. For example, I interviewed people while pulling the focus and recording the sound. There was no moment to sit back and consider the whole picture of the film at the stage of shooting.
Since making The Last Page what has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from making this film?
The lesson on the distance between the filmmaker and the subject. You must be aware of the impact of you and your camera. It’s almost impossible for the subject to behave without minding the camera. However, if you keep rolling a camera, there comes a moment when the subject forgets the presence of you and your camera. A lot depends on how you relate to the subject. This is what I learned during the production of The Last Page, and I want to keep it in mind for my future projects.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
With The Last Page, it’s the people who made this film possible, including the bookshop staff and the customers. Once I started filming, an unexpected number of people helped me with filming. Truly, they were the inspiration of the film. Their support and passion encouraged me to keep filming and editing.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
Yes, especially so under the pandemic. The filmmakers should regard the pandemic as a creative opportunity and seek a new way to tell something yet to be told.
For anyone out there thinking about making their first film do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?
Make what you want and listen to what others say. I believe communication is the key to making a creative and relevant film.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Last Page?
My hope is that this film will make you take a moment to recall what matters to you and to remember what you cherish in your heart. And, of course, please enjoy the film!